Thursday, 12 July 2012

Employers: it's not a fair tick-the-box question!

When you apply for a job, standard forms ask a range of personal history question including 'Do you have epilepsy?'
Someone like me would be lying if I didn't tick the box, indicating I had epilepsy but that, frankly, would tell the potential employer very little. Because:
  • Yes. Neurologists would diagnose my condition as epilepsy.
  • I don't and have never convulsed (in other words, fit the stereotype.)
  • I never need an ambulance or medical attention after a seizure.
  • I'll be 'back in the room', as it were, within a few minutes.
  • My epilepsy doesn't affect my productivity.
  • 500,000 people turn up for work every day with a hangover.
  • Their hangovers significantly reduce their productivity.
  • 600,000 people have a form of epilepsy.
  • People with epilepsy know their limitations & will explain if you them a chance.
  • People who arrive at the workplace with hangovers are less likely to.
  • There are about 50 different types of seizures ranging from blinking to blacking out. Isn't the type of seizure more important information than the umbrella name for the medical condition?
I was talking about this with a friend of mine yesterday who's highly frustrated by forms that he wants to accurately complete. But they don't give him a chance to to give detail about his epilepsy which he knows is a much misunderstood medical condition. The friend in question doesn't convulse - and that goes for nearly half of all people with epilepsy.
However most people think convulsions are what epilepsy is all about. 
When my friend ticks the epilepsy box he's pretty sure that the potential employers examining his application will look at that piece of 'information' and move it (at best) to the bottom of the pile or (at worst) discard it completely. It just doesn't seem fair. He's intelligent, hardworking and a man with great integrity.
What about the Disability Discrimination Act, you might be thinking? Yes. What about it! No potential employer is stupid enough to ignore it and actually admit that epilepsy is why they don't want you on their staff. They'll find a reason that will be totally unconnected.
As said friend was almost makes you want to skip that box and just pretend or lie. Reality is, it's better to sit in front of someone and explain what happens to you specifically rather than tick a box which perpetrates an age-old myth.
I've no idea how employers imagine they could use the data they gather from the epilepsy box. 'Do you have epilepsy?' is the beginning of a conversation and in no way is a tick-the-box question.
Let's replace it with 'If you have a form of epilepsy, what form do your seizures take and how are you affected by them?'


  1. I sent this to the Guardian.

  2. Well said. And well written :-)

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Are we going to your place? No, it wasn't a proposition!

It sounded like a proposition, I grant you, although it definitely wasn't and the man who thought he was being propositioned react...